Heart of a Samurai is a 2010 novel by Margi Preus based on a real life story of a young Japanese boy who strayed out to sea while fishing and ended up in the rescuing arms of an American whaler, whose kindly captain takes a shine to the young boy because of his curiosity and intelligence.
Manjiro Nakahama is thought to be the first Japanese person to live in America. His own country was sealed off from the rest of the world in the 1830s and 40s and contact with foreigners was hazardous for Japanese people. Having been taken on board the American ship, the option of returning to their homeland was taken from them.
Manjiro was a poor fisherman but he dreamed of being a Samurai, something a boy of his class could never hope to be. The only future he and the other members of his crew could hope for was one of abandonment on a neutral island. The American Captain Whitfield, wants to adopt Manjiro and offers him a place in his home back in the United States. His fellow countrymen fear that going to America will contaminate him but the kindness of the captain and the promise of education prove to be a powerful incentive.
The story shows how he copes in a strange land and how his hope to return to Japan spurs him on to further adventures. How he becomes a Samurai and what that means in a more open Japan becomes clear.
This is a book about crossing cultural boundaries and finding an identity through the experiences you go through. Margi Preus discovered the true story of the Japanese boy who went to America when she was researching another book.
It is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?